Multilingualism: An unavoidable reality in South Africa

Research on the reasons behind families raising multilingual children vary from the hope of creating better employment opportunities for their children to the reportedly improved cognitive and intellectual benefits associated with multilingualism. Multilingualism in South Africa, a country with 11 official spoken languages, comes with its own reasons with better employment opportunities being at the top of that list. But many South Africans become multilingual to be able to communicate with people from different ethnic groups they encounter on a daily basis.


If we think about our schooling system we can all agree that it is unavoidable to not interact with people from different cultures and therefore different languages daily. If our children are not able to communicate in more than one language then we greatly limit their degree of social development and interaction. Irrespective of the reason for teaching your child a second or a third language, we can all conclude that it is no easy thing to do. As parents we all have the same concerns, questions and ideas.

A simple Google search will give you a number of approaches which you can follow to teach your child another language. The two most recommended approaches are:

  1. The “one-parent, one-language” approach – in this approach each parent only uses one language when interacting with their child. This is especially beneficial when the parents speak different languages.
  2. The “minority language at home” approach – in this approach the minority language is being spoken at home due to the fact that the other language will be spoken and used at school.

We must however be cognisant of the fact that South Africa is not like most other countries and the languages which our children are required to speak, read and write on academic level are often different to our home languages. We must therefore consider the following approaches to help our children become multilingual:

  1. The adapted version of the “one-parent, one-language” approach – in this approach the parent whom is the most adept with each language to only use that language to instruct your children.
  2. The adapted version of the “minority language at home” approach – in this approach you as parents must come up with a language policy in which you only use certain languages on certain days or during certain times or activities. For example, if your home language is Setswana and your child is attending an English pre-school then you should make time to use Afrikaans as language in your household. But you should also not neglect to have dedicated English and Setswana times in your household.


Teaching your child one or two additional languages is a daunting task and as a parent you are already being bombarded with information on how to raise your child now you are also being bombarded with ideas on how to teach your child more languages. Teaching your child languages should be a relaxing thing to do and therefore Super Linguists have come with a fun and effective approach to teaching your children more languages. To find out more about the Super Linguists programme or to open up your own branch contact us today!


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